Rationing by undercapacity, and by the persuasive powers of Big Pharma who have used most of the funds that should have been spent on Radiotherapy.
THE head of a government committee on cancer treatment has resigned amid concerns that up to 40,000 patients a year are being denied crucial radiotherapy.
Dr Peter Kirkbride, medical director of Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool, has stepped down as chairman of the government’s radiotherapy clinical reference group just weeks after warning in The Sunday Times that NHS managers were “failing patients” by running a “Cinderella” service.
He accused NHS England of having planned funding for the potentially life-saving treatment on the “back of a fag packet”.
More leading cancer doctors echoed his concerns this weekend. Professor Patricia Price of Imperial College London and chairwoman of the charity Action Radiotherapy, said: “Some patients are missing out on the opportunity for their cancer to be cured. Some are simply not able to be treated . . . We [Britain] are towards the bottom of Europe. We are at least 10 years behind the [rest of ] the western world in terms of access to advanced treatments and we are slipping back again.”
Professor Karol Sikora, an NHS consultant oncologist and medical director of Cancer Partners UK, a private treatment network, said: “There is a lack of radiotherapy availability resulting in 40,000 cancer patients simply not getting it each year. Worse still, the quality of the technology provided is far below European standards.” A study published in The Lancet medical journal found Britain had a 21% undercapacity in the number of radiotherapy machines in 2012, the worst rate in western Europe.
Despite NHS estimates that 52% of cancer patients should receive some form of radiotherapy as part of their treatment, only 38% do so — a shortfall of 40,000.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “David Cameron’s decision to give radiotherapy lower priority than drugs has left tens of thousands of cancer patients missing out.”
NHS England said all patients had access to an advanced form of radiotherapy called intensity modulated radiotherapy and the numbers receiving it had trebled since 2012. It said £6m was also being invested in developing new radiotherapy techniques.
Kirkbride declined to discuss his resignation but said it was for personal reasons. NHS England said he remained a member of the radiotherapy clinical reference group.